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First Person: 'Bully' Writer-Producer Cynthia Lowen Speaks Out

By Indiewire Staff | Indiewire March 30, 2012 at 10:57AM

Never has failure been so successful: While Harvey Weinstein was unable to get "Bully" a PG-13 rating, his attempts resulted in massive public awareness, celebrity rallies and even free advertising in support of the film and its cause.
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Witnessing the bullying that was taking place on Alex’s bus and at his school was incredibly difficult. At the time, as we were not monitoring audio, there were also several bullying episodes that took place, including the first bus ride of the film, in which another boy violently verbally threatens Alex, that we did not realize had occurred until we were editing the film, many months later. Over the course of the year, certainly, a trust was built between us and Alex, and although we were often “flies on the wall,” Alex knew that we were there, and that there was a delicate balance in our work together to both make sure he was safe, but to also bear witness to the things that he had experienced for so long, in silence and isolation.

This film reflects the experiences of not only these five families, but of the 13 million kids and families who are bullied in this country every single year.

Ultimately, Lee and I did intervene. After witnessing escalating bullying on the bus, and knowing from Alex that it was even worse when we were not there, we decided to share the footage with his parents and with school officials, and to make sure action was taken to make him safe. As the film depicts, this moment was a turning point in his family’s awareness of the extent of Alex’s bullying, which he had kept from them up to that time, and led to him being taken off that bus.

Having the energy of Harvey Weinstein and The Weinstein Company behind this film has been an incredible journey, and has enabled "Bully" to have a reach, that at the beginning, we could have only dreamed of. This film had pretty humble beginnings, which probably sounds very familiar to many independent documentary filmmakers out there. We started this out of our own homes, with our own savings, knowing that this was the moment we had to begin this film; that we couldn’t wait for a grant to come through, or a financier. Fortunately, over time, we did get support from several great organizations, including Cinereach, the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention, the BeCause Foundation, the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust the Sundance Documentary Film Fund, and others, but throughout production, our team remained tiny: just Lee and I for the most part, him doing cinematography, me doing sound and production, or sometimes just Lee alone.

After the film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, in April 2009, and we were approached by The Weinstein Company, we knew they would be able to get this film to as many people as possible, and that they would make sure the voices of the kids and families in this film were heard—and had impact. As we hoped, having Harvey Weinstein as a champion of this film has given "Bully" an incredible opportunity to reach the millions of kids and families who are touched by this issue, and to generate real change in our society and culture.

This article is related to: Bully, First Person, The Weinstein Company





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